City project leveraged $270 million

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City project leveraged $270 million

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Bill Lackey
Community Mercy Health Partners - which includes Springfield Regional Medical Center - is the largest employer in Clark County with 2,700 employees. The hospital system draws commuters from all over the region.

By the numbers

$27.6 million: Amount of state, federal and private dollars used to clean up seven brownfield sites around the city.

$270 million: Amount of investment made at those brownfield sites around the city.

1,925: Number of jobs created or retained through the brownfield project.

Committed to coverage

The Springfield News-Sun is committed to covering news downtown, including recent stories on the Fountain Ave. two-way street conversion and the opening of the NTPRD Chiller.

The city’s $28 million brownfield redevelopment project has leveraged approximately $270 million in investment, according to city and state records.

With the recent openings of the National Trail Parks and Recreation District’s Chiller downtown ice arena and the Champion City Business Park, the city’s brownfield project has put seven sites it redeveloped since 2000 back into productive use.

The remediation efforts led to the development of two new hospitals, a cancer center, a business park, the downtown ice arena and two businesses. The investments have created or retained approximately 1,925 jobs, and could bring an estimated 300 more jobs at the industrial park over the next several years.

Brownfields are former industrial or commercial sites which may be contaminated by low concentrations of hazardous waste, but have the potential to be reused once they are cleaned up.

According to Clean Ohio Fund numbers, the city’s projects have leveraged more money than neighbors in Dayton, Hamilton and Middletown.

“We had city staff who over-performed here,” said Mayor Warren Copeland. “It was just really dramatic and effective.”

The developments in Springfield include:

• The $275 million Springfield Regional Medical Center, redeveloped at the former Robinson Insulation property on North Street;

• The $15 million Ohio Valley Surgical Hospital, redeveloped at the former Greenawalt-Trenor facility on W. Main St.;

• The $10 million Springfield Cancer Center, redeveloped at the former Bailey Ironworks facility on North Street;

• The $8.5 million National Trail Parks and Recreation District’s Chiller ice arena, redeveloped at the former Haucke complex on W. Main St.;

• The Delille Oxygen Co. building, now valued at $1.1 million, was constructed at the former SPECO Kelsey-Hayes site on W. Columbia St.;

• The $1.8 million Champion City Business Park is now ready for development at the former International body plant near Lagonda Ave.;

• The Springfield Overhead Door company will spend $395,000 on the initial phase of its new building at the former D&H manufacturing plant on Sheridan Ave.

Six of the projects were completed using $8.2 million in Clean Ohio project funding, which is being replaced by JobsOhio’s new brownfield redevelopment incentive program this month.

Locally, the projects cost government entities just $400,000 in non-income tax revenue, according to community development officials.

The city used $15.6 million in federal, state and private dollars, as well as $12 million in infrastructure enhancement dollars from federal agencies such as the Department of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation.

Copeland said the city proved it could use the money wisely early in the program, which led to more grant money.

“We were successful over time in part because of our track record,” Copeland said. “That’s due to the hard work of the city staff.”

The projects sparked redevelopment on the west end of downtown, transforming the area by adding three new medical facilities and the Chiller Ice Arena.

Copeland said he remembers meeting with planners working on ways to revitalize the downtown, and when they got to the western side of the city “they were stumped.”

“They didn’t know what we could do about that,” Copeland said. “What we did was turn those old brown sites into a productive use. It really is an amazing story. Every time we show somebody from out of town what we’ve done to that area, they’re impressed and amazed.”

Wittenberg University economics professor Jeff Ankrom said the city has been smart to clear out old buildings that gave the downtown “an unpleasant look.”

“They’ve done this in stages and it’s taken a long time,” Ankrom said. “For awhile it was kind of uncomfortable to think about it, but now all this is starting to turn a corner. The whole area is just much more attractive than it was.”

Program history

As the city and county combined to create the Clark County Combined Health District in the late 90s, $400,000 was set aside as a brownfield redevelopment matching source. They combined with the Community Improvement Corporation to create a local, non-income tax revenue source of funds to enhance their ability to perform environmental site assessments.

Shannon Meadows, the city’s community development director who oversaw the brownfield projects until 2008, said in the 90s, downtown development essentially stopped at SPECO on the western edge. The private market failed, Meadows said, so the city decided to step in.

“By getting SPECO out and pushing the corridor a little further in, we created what now people think of as the west end,” Meadows said.

The program was also designed to bring property tax revenue to the city schools. The city began discussions in 2001 to redevelop the former International site on Lagonda Avenue into a business park to help bring more money to the school district. The business park opened last month and is ready for any prospective users.

“Things don’t happen quickly,” Meadows said, “but determination does see it through.”

Meadows said local leadership at Navistar played a key role in the redevelopment. The company spent $4 million before the city took over with $2.6 million in Clean Ohio funds, according to planning and zoning administrator Bryan Heck, who took over the program from Meadows in 2008.

“They wanted that legacy to be a positive one,” Meadows said.

Several sites were redeveloped for the downtown ice arena, but things changed in the community and created other opportunities for investment, Meadows said.

In 2007, the Greenawalt-Trenor facility was originally planned to be the site of the family ice arena, but a group of local physicians bought the facility and opened the Ohio Valley Medical Center, which is now known as Ohio Valley Surgical Hospital.

Meadows said the NTPRD board sacrificed its location for the good of the city.

Ohio Valley Surgical Hospital president Steve Eisentrager said the surgeons were looking to build a suburban location at first, but the downtown site has been great.

“The physicians have really enjoyed being downtown, especially with all the development that’s taken place,” Eisentrager said. “Now that we’re here, it’s great to see all the newness and all the improvements that have been made.”

He said the recent redevelopments will only create more development in the future.

“It’s starting to breed new projects,” Eisentrager said.

Meadows said the redevelopment couldn’t have been completed without help from the neighborhoods, as well as political and business leaders. The city’s first goal was to educate neighborhoods about the redevelopment to make sure residents understood the city’s plans for each site.

She said residents were often contacted by the U.S. EPA and knew enough about brownfields that it became beneficial to the program.

“Communication and education was critical so that we didn’t have resistance, but support,” Meadows said.

The SPECO redevelopment pushed the commercial corridor deeper into downtown and paved the way for the city’s efforts in residential redevelopment. Meadows said the brownfield project played a big role in receiving a $6.5 million Neighborhood Stabilization Project competitive grant in 2010, the largest per capita allocation in the nation. A portion of the houses are in the western edge, near four of the new developments.

The future

The Clean Ohio program, which has used $400 million in funding for 400 different projects around the state since 2000, is being phased out in favor of the JobsOhio brownfield redevelopment incentive program.

Meadows said regulations from both the federal and state government make it “much harder” to perform remediation projects.

While cities were in the “driver’s seat” over the last 13 years, they’re now in the “co-pilot’s seat,” helping interested parties redevelop sites.

“Right now, in our market and in the legislative and fiscal world that we live in, we should not be in the driver’s seat,” Meadow said. “There’s still more opportunity out there, but we need to have that end user at the beginning of the day, instead of at the end of the day.”

The city was able to redevelop the sites without a user in mind. The first site, D&H Manufacturing, sat vacant for 10 years before it became Springfield Overhead Door.

“You can’t get that funding today and have that type of flexibility,” Meadows said.

Copeland said the state is leaning more towards loans rather than grants, which makes it more difficult for these larger downtown sites.

“It’s going to make it more difficult than what we’ve done in the past, but we’ll keep trying,” Copeland said.

While the city is not currently doing brownfield projects, Heck said they’re hungry to redevelop the city in other ways.

“The end goal is always to continue to better Springfield and better the lives of citizens,” Heck said.

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